June 2016_by Federica Tattoli
Timothy Hull (1979, New York, NY) received an MFA at Parsons School of Design, New York, and a BA at New York University, New York. Recent solo exhibitions include: Painting in the Imperfect Tense, Klaus von Nichtssagend Gallery, New York (2016) and Pastiche Cicero, Fitzroy Gallery, New York (2014). His work has been included in group exhibitions at Mitchell-Innes and Nash, The Hole, FRAC Lorraine, Tate Modern, the Morris Museum of Art, and the Nomas Foundation. His work has been featured and reviewed in the New York Times, Artforum, Art in America, Flash Art, Interview Magazine, the Los Angeles Times, and the San Francisco Chronicle. The new series of work by Hull further articulates the complex territory of language, memory, history and sexuality. Within the richly textured pictures, heavily impastoed patterned surfaces conjoin with iconographic imagery and glyphs in ethereal washes, splashes and splatters. Painterly considerations include surface tensions, the paint itself, aspects of plasticity and conflating visual planes. The work features imagery from Attic vases, others the Kouros, or Edymion figure; some make use of ancient Greek, Coptic and early Arabic scribbling and graffiti, functioning like a wall found in a Ptolemaic archeological dig.
How would you present your work?
I talk about my work in terms of its conceptual and formal qualities. First, it's about ideas- interpretations of history, language and text, empire, sexuality and poetics, to name a few things that come to mind. Secondly, I strive to achieve a sense of beauty and balance. If it's got strong ideas and it looks good, then I've succeeded.
Where do you make your work?
I have a studio in Greenpoint, Brooklyn where I primarily make paintings. In my apartment in Williamsburg there is a home studio where I primarily work on drawings. My family has a lovely apple farm in Warwick, NY where I often work on sculptural or more messy projects. I find I need to work in multiple spaces for a multiplicity of pursuits.
For Ammonis, Who Died at 29, in 610, is the title of the solo show you currently have up at ASHES/ASHES in LA. Could you tell me something about this exhibition? Why this title? Who is Ammonis?
The show is title takes its inspiration from an early 20th century poem by the Alexandrian poet, CP Cavafy, about the death of a young gay poet in the seventh century and the tragic loss of Greek language and Hellenic culture during the ascendancy of the Arab conquest in 640AD.
Language, memory, history and sexuality are central themes of your work. In which way do you develop these ideas?
True, those are some of the main topics I'm engaged with on a conceptual level. The slippage of language over time is a preoccupation. The ancient world was filled with various languages, some written and some only spoken. Often the unwritten languages were transliterated into a written language using a gottographic technique ending up in what appears to be total nonsense writing usually found upon Greek amphore. I find ancient nonsense epigraphs to be really inspirational.
Why do you look at ancient and classical themes?
This is a common question. Many contemporary artists look towards these things most likely because they are ready-made images of beautiful faces and forms. There isn't much conceptual underpinning. I look towards ruins and antiquity to contemplate and highlight the fall of empire, the fleeting nature of human folly, the futile striving towards platonic forms and the implicit mystery of antiquity. But I must admit, I am also drawn to the dry academic rigor of classical studies and the philosophy of the pre-socratics.
What can't be missing from your worktable?
A place to burn incense.
What is a collection you wish at least one work of yours was a part of?
Probably the most obvious answer for the most obvious reasons...
Well, what is a museum where you'd like to have an exhibition?
I have a really fantastical idea to do an exhibition in the Guggenheim Museum's Reading Room. It's such a fascinating space and I'd like to fill it with paintings of tablets and objects, patterns and glyphs using the shelves and nooks as spaces of display. The work would be about the library of Alexandria- images and snippets from an ancient wonder of the world now lost.
The market or your need to express?
Of course the need to express. This is not a get-rich-quick scheme and if it was it's a long game. This is work I absolutely must make and I make every conceivable sacrifice in order to make it.
Lightness or depth?
Taoism is a philosophy I follow closely, so neither. Or both. I seek balance.
Day or night?
Well, both have salient features and essential qualities I enjoy. However, I am decidedly a "morning person" and function best and do my most creative work first thing in the day.
What's a question You've never been asked but one You've always wanted to answer? Answer that question.
Who do you identify more with- Wayne or Garth? And I'd have to take the easy answer and say somewhere in between.
Could you briefly describe one of your latest works?
Yes- there are three works in my current show at ASHES/ASHES that are sets of stacked paintings. Each set has three paintings of differing sizes. Each set features an image of a scribe (as evoked in the Cavafy poem) and each set features a different style of language used in Alexandria in the seventh century. The paintings are inspired by the languages themselves as well as the people who would have written them. The three stacks of paintings are set upon white arches on a wall installation featuring graffiti, washes and scribblings from antiquity.
What are you reading?
I find that I am often reading a few books at one time. Currently I'm looking at "The Philosopher's Pupil" by Iris Murdoch, "The Birth of Tragedy" by Frederick Neitzsche and book of essays about Jasper Johns titled "Seeing With the Mind's Eye"
I don't watch many films but I recently sat through the entirety of "My Dinner With Andre" which is a really cerebral film that's pretty much a two hour conversation between Wallace Shawn and Andre Gregory. It's a rather dyspeptic film about the futility and frustrations of being a creative person in New York.
Where would you like to live?
I am perfectly content living in New York City and the Hudson Valley but I fantasize about living in Tangier, perhaps an island off Ireland, among Cezanne's landscapes in south France or Rome. I lived in Florence, Italy for a number of years in the early 2000's and have always felt that Italy was a second home. Tangier is a place I've only visited but found it so romantic and perfectly decadent and anachronistic. In a former life I lived in the Gaeltacht in Ireland.
Do you have reference artists? Artists you'd like to work with?
Bridget Donahue recently paid me a huge compliment when she said my most recent work reminded her of Marc Camille Chaimowicz, which is an artist i greatly admire. I'd like to be able to work with him or perhaps Sophie-Therese Trenka-Dalton, a Berlin artist with whom I share some affinities.
Do you have a project, related to art, that you'd like to do?
Yes - I have been slowly working on developing a pebble mosaic floor (like you see in the Greek islands or Andalusia) that one day I'd like to produce in a gallery in tandem with paintings.
If you weren't an artist, what job would you like?
Well, I teach painting and drawing at the college level and that is immensely gratifying. But other than that, I'd like to operate an international bazarre selling exotic wares, spices and bric-a-brac from around the world.
Let's imagine a group show. Who would you like to exhibit with?
My perfect group show that would include me would also include Graham Anderson, Mat Cerletty, Valerie Jaudon, Nancy Spero, Gregory Edwards, Marc Chaimowicz, Jasper Johns and Josh Faught. It would be a weird show but really intense.
Yes or no to curators? If yes, who would you choose?
I think there's a time and a place for curators, so I would choose Joao Ribas. I miss him. I remember a series of really incisive shows he curated at Bellwether in the mid 2000's.
A dream of yours?
When I was a teenager I once dreamed I was on a bus heading towards an enormous Tuscan villa. It seemed so mysterious to me at the time. Two years later, I was on a bus pulling into Villa La Pietra in Florence and recognized it from my dream immediately.